Zack Cozart did not receive his extension for $17.4 million after having the best season of his career, hitting .297, .385 OBP, 63 RBI, and hitting 24 homeruns in just 122 games.
These stats allowed him to propel the Reds during parts of the season where others were struggling. Letting him go into free agency to eventually sign with the Angels was shocking to many Reds fans because of the great season he had just had. An even more surprising fact is that signing him to an extension would have allowed the Reds to trade him and get prospects, or current players in exchange for him.
Aside from this, they also appeared to make some well needed and smart moves when it came to pitchers, most notably, letting these pitchers go to free agency: Asher Wojciechowski, Bronson Arroyo, Scott Feldman, and Drew Storen. The Reds had the worst ERA in the NL during the 2017 season, so letting go of some of these pitchers appears to be a good move by the Reds’ office. The average ERA for these players was 5.76, and their ages were starting to climb, which allows the reds to become younger, and move away from the high average ERA.
The Reds were also able to sign a few younger players to put in the Minor League to prepare for the future. They have recently signed the 10-year veteran Cliff Pennington to a Minor League contract for $1.55 million, which will allow for a little more experience in the locker room. Aside from the loss of Zack Cozart, the Reds seem to have increased their youth, and kept most of their lineup from the previous year.
A few position switches have occurred during the offseason, including at shortstop and catcher. At the start of the 2017 season, the starting catcher was Devin Mesoraco, and the shortstop was Zack Cozart. After an injury cost Mesoraco most of his season, Tucker Barnhart stepped in and performed at a very high level, winning a Gold Glove, and providing a solid bat in the lineup. At shortstop, Jose Peraza will be filling in with a solid glove, and slightly below average bat. These 2 changes will impact the offense minimally, but will impact the defense majorly from the start of the 2017 season with a returning Gold Glove winning catcher. Aside from these altercations, it appears that other positions will remain the same with some potential for changes throughout the season.
When comparing the current prospects and non-starting players to the current roster, it is safe to say, barring injury, that these positions are locked in: catcher, left field, first base, and third base. Tucker Barnhart, Adam Duvall, Joey Votto, and Eugenio Suarez have all performed well over the years to prove their worth to the team and with the lack of competition at their positions, should remain at their positions all season. With Billy Hamilton in center field, it is up to his performance and off-season work to see if he performs well enough to remain a starter. With up and coming speed in the outfield in the Reds’ system, his position could be given to a younger, improving player. With the 2017 starting catcher becoming a backup, Devin Mesoraco will need to prove he still has what it takes to be Major League catcher, and to hope he does not get hurt again.
The Reds’ offseason moves appear to be advantageous to the long run for the team. Removing older, less productive talent, and improving the youth and versatility of the players could help turn the franchise into a World Series contender again.
Jason Bosse: Twitter – @Bossejas